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Friday, April 29, 2011

Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven

My son attends a private school, and as part of our "service agreement," parents are required to sign up for certain volunteer activities to help out once in a while. Since the school does not provide a regular lunch, once a month parents get together to make food for the kids. My most recent task over the last several months is to be a "hot lunch" baker and bring in two dozen something or others.

I try to make something relatively easy and fun, and sort of look forward to the challenge. It's an hour here, maybe two, spent baking and then you're done. It's only two dozen; it's not like they're asking one parent to feed the entire school, since I think there are 12 of us who split up the task.

Over the last few months when I'd drop stuff off, I'd notice the same tray each time: 24 completely insane cupcakes, loaded with what looked like a cup of frosting on each one and then some other craptastic piece of candy or whatever on top. It made my teeth hurt just looking at it. Today was no exception, as I saw a tray of them all lined up, ready to go. Not only did they have their usual crap load of frosting, but this time each one held a marshmallow peep perched on top - edible flashiness that screamed, "Look at me!"

It's not like whatever I make is necessarily healthy, as desserts go. This time I made chocolate sandwich cookies (that totally freaking rock, thank you very much) that were pretty easy and fun to do, but not exactly nutritious. Something different, I thought. Another mom, I noticed, brought in homemade chocolate chip cookies and that's totally fine. But who the heck keeps bringing a plate of cavities to school every time? Gross.

Not only that, but they're direct to you from the grocery store down the street. Don't like to bake? No time to carve an hour or two out of your schedule to do it? Then don't sign up, it's that simple. Part of why I like to do this is because I make it myself, a special something that I've whipped up just for them (including those banana muffins I bet no one ate that one time because I'm sure they just weren't exciting enough). Considering the volunteer force that this school counts on to help make the place run, I don't think it's too hard to expect that something actually be homemade, rather than swinging by the store twenty minutes beforehand and spending $100 on junk.

Of course when my son came home from school today, he told me how there were "lots of your cookies left, mom!" and that he (as expected) took a Peep cupcake. I imagine the sugar rush these kids get when they return to their classroom after lunch, and the following crash that will likely ensue. Speaking of my plain Jane banana muffins, I brought those in when hot lunch just happened to be a nice pancake breakfast. I pictured all those pancakes, all that maple syrup, and figured something a little more ... wholesome? might be in order. When I dropped them off, of course another ginormous tray of loaded-up Christmas-themed cupcakes, complete with three-inch deep green frosting, stared me in the face, mocking my mostly-nutritious muffins.

I pictured the scene unfolding much like a kickball reject on the playing field: the first 24 kids come in and scoop up the eye candy first, leaving the "leftovers" (including those muffins) for the rest of the unsuspecting student body. I then envisioned the old fart staff members eating my muffins when no one else would, maybe because it was a good source of fiber.

I don't know who keeps bringing them, but I don't think it's too much of a chore to turn on your oven and break out the whisk. Turn it into time well spent with your child, which is what I have often done in the past (at least when I didn't want to get it done in a hurry). Considering that some of these moms show up for classroom parties with a laptop computer, perhaps they need a few hours to go "off the grid" and maybe crack open a recipe box.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A loving (form) letter from my OB

After a few days' vacation I returned to find a couple of craptastic things in the mail. Besides the summons for jury duty, I also received a nice, warm robotic form letter from one of the OB's in my practice.

As I looked at the return address on the envelope my stomach sort of went sour. I immediately thought it was a bill. Upon opening it, I realized it was nothing like that - but rather a plea for me to follow her in her new venture as she branched out into a private practice of her own.

Considering my feelings for her, I read her letter with amusement. Equal parts fake concern mixed with complete arrogance, I immediately began crafting a response in my head before I even got to the "I look forward to seeing you again" that mocked me at the bottom of the page.

She writes:
I would like to thank you for the trust you have given me as your OB/GYN physician during the last three years. Your health and wellness have always been and will continue to be my top priority.
Unfortunately, your convenience is obviously top priority, too. As is your "just forget your quaint little plan to have a VBAC and let's just get this birth over with" mentality.

A little back story: when I gave birth to my youngest, I was in the throes of late-pregnancy hypertension. I never had any protein in my urine or other symptoms except for elevated blood pressure, and her attitude certainly wasn't helping, that was for sure. I was trying for a VBAC, and of course it seemed towards the end I got the heavy rotation of not-so-supportive care givers in the last weeks and days of my pregnancy. I called her "Dr. Congeniality" because of her perfectly coifed hair, trendiest clothes and slim figure - did this woman have kids? - she swept in and out of the room like a human Barbie doll and barely spent more than the allotted 4 1/2 minutes with me. At one point, she said I was measuring small, and I'm not even sure how she could tell because she barely took any time to whip that tape measure out. (In hindsight I'm sure that was a ploy to get me to consent to a cesarean and skip the VBAC, but the ultrasound tech confirmed my suspicion that the baby was perfectly fine.)

With less than ten days from my due date, my blood pressure was still a concern and now the baby had flipped into a transverse position. The head OB in the practice decided to admit me for observation for several hours, so I sat in a hospital bed being grilled by various residents, including Dr. Congeniality herself, who was on-call. Before I left for the hospital, I stole glances at the on-call schedule at the clerk's desk at my OB (as if I somehow felt I was not entitled to know that basic information of who would be available to deliver my baby) and found out that Dr. Congeniality would be on-call on my due date (as if that mattered). I memorized the schedule and silently prayed, Do not go into labor on not go into labor on Wednesday...

Since I was just there for observation, no one except my mother knew I was there (and of course my husband was with me the entire time). The phone kept ringing in the room, and in my confusion, I didn't answer it - after all, I didn't consider myself a real patient. Who the heck knew I was there? And crap, where was the phone? I felt like I had to twist myself like a pretzel, somehow maneuvering around all the monitors and my huge belly, to even find it, and by the time I decided I should probably answer it and find out who the heck it was and what they wanted, it stopped ringing.

It must have rung twice, I can't even remember, and still we didn't answer it. In my mind, I was still trying to come up with a plan of action, and really didn't want to be there or talk to anyone anyway. So I ignored it. It rang a third time. This time I picked it up.

"Do I have to come down there?" a voice demanded. My brain turned as I tried to put pieces of the puzzle together and figure out just who the (!@&% this was, talking to me like I was a six-year-old child. I immediately went on the defensive.

Of course it was my "doctor," who felt that "oh, it's too bad you wanted a VBAC, but now I think you should just have the cesarean." As if she really cared for my plans - but I thought, I have to stand up for myself. I cannot just let this chick walk all over me and I have to be the advocate I'm always encouraging others to be. I told her I felt the doctors in the practice were being alarmist (after all, I had been through this before with my second pregnancy and there was nowhere near the fervor and intensity over it) and told her I wanted to give my baby time to turn on its own. "I am not having this cesarean for no reason," I said, which she did not like. She sighed audibly and said, "Well, okay then. 'First, do no harm,'" as she flippantly cited the Hippocratic oath. Yeah, as if, I thought.

Soon after a nurse (a wonderful one, I might add!) came into the room and said how she too had fielded a call from the OB, who didn't even identify herself. Wonderful Marilyn firmly said (before she knew who it was on the other end of the line) that she wouldn't put Dr. Congeniality through to me because I had been through a lot today, and was upset and confused about what to do next. Apparently Dr. C was furious, but Wonderful Marilyn stood her ground, bless her heart.

Five days later I had gone into labor on my own but the baby was now breech. Thankfully even though I had gone into labor on a Wednesday, the head OB was still on-call from the night before, and he did the cesarean. Whew. 

Of course, she did come in to examine (rather, what felt like punch me in the guts) my uterus, and made a snide remark about the baby's position and not wanting "feet coming out of my vagina." As if to scold me for my rash decision to avoid a cesarean sooner. I wanted to take down that Pitocin drip (you know, the one I didn't need because I was successfully breastfeeding) and strangle her with the tubing. I forget what I said, but I wish I could have come up with something in my typical smart ass fashion if it were not for the Percocet-induced haze.

...I have exciting news: I'm starting my own private medical practice, a comprehensive women-centered practice, where the patient comes first.
Unless she wants an atypical birth, right? You know, the ones that don't involve being coerced into induction or made to feel stupid for her decisions. And if she doesn't follow your advice, you'll just berate her and treat her like a child, I presume? Yeah, that sounds very "women-centered."
I will be offering a variety of hours to accommodate your busy schedules...
Yeah, we all know what a laugh this is. And that we'd probably be sitting there for at least an hour to be seen for a five-minute appointment, just like with your former employer.
As you transfer your care to my new practice ... 
Ha! This one made me laugh. How about, 'As I transfer my care far, far away from you and your former colleagues, whom the very thought of makes me want to vomit uncontrollably and reminds me of how completely crappy my last birth was'? It also struck me how forward this sounded, and I wondered if she left the old place on good terms. But then again, being this presumptive is right up her alley, I have found.
My highly qualified and dedicated team is committed to providing you with the outstanding care and service you deserve..
Oh yeah? How about supporting more mothers who want to have VBACs or normal, natural births?
Compassionate care has always been my focus, and along with my knowledgeable staff and state of the art technology, I will provide you with the most up-to-date medical treatments available. 
Except if you are delivering vaginally, in which case I'll likely tell you, based on outdated information, that you can't eat or drink while laboring; that you must lie down at all times to be examined and hooked up to monitors, and you won't be allowed to get out of bed for any reason. You'll also be subjected to monitoring that has been proven to raise the cesarean rate and failed to detect the very condition in babies that it's designed to prevent. You will also need repeated vaginal exams - even though you are GBS+ - although your body could just as easily tell you when you're hitting transition and it's time to push. And by the way, when it is time to push, we'll tell you how and when - even though in the average woman the urge to push is like an unstoppable freight train. And if you don't have the urge to push, we'll tell you to, anyway. And if you show up with a breech-presenting baby (which you seem to like to do), we'll insist on an instant cesarean, even though recent, up-to-date studies suggest otherwise.

Yes, that all sounds very compassionate and "women-centered." Never mind that even with all our "superior" state-of-the-art technology and care, we still have abysmally high rates of neonatal and maternal death.
I look forward to (never seeing) you again.
 I hope all your patients up and decide to hire a midwife.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is extreme couponing extremely nuts?

I used to clip coupons. Then I decided, the inserts they included in the Sunday newspaper stunk. There were more pages of ads for things like Haband! slacks and plastic sandals and bras than for anything I could use, so I gave up. I even made my husband take the Sunday newspaper back to the store once because the inserts were so bad, and I didn't clip a single couple from it. (And you know what? They took it back. LOL)

Groceries are expensive, sure. But the lady on Extreme Couponing strikes me as someone with an unhealthy obsession: she reminds me of those people who shop just for the sake of shopping, buying 42 pairs of black pants only to leave them hanging in the closet, tags still on.

An older friend of mine got me started years ago on coupon clipping, and I grew up with a mother who religiously clipped them and stashed them in a recipe box for trips to the store. I remember when some brand new (expensive) cereal came out on the market, and my friend had a coupon for it. She saved a dollar, whoopee! I kind of thought to myself, if you're not going to buy it anyway, then what good does it do? If the cereal you normally buy is cheaper than the stuff you buy with a coupon, you're not really saving, are you?

Like those coupons around Superbowl Sunday and during the summer - buy 18 packs of hot dogs and save 25 cents! I hate that. I don't need 18 packs of hot dogs, and unless I'm hosting the annual family reunion, don't want that many, even if they can go in the freezer.

Apparently this lady stockpiles stuff (but is courteous and at least doesn't clear the shelves in case someone else comes along) and I can only guess from the photo that that's her home, not the local grocery store. Great, so you are now the proud owner of 400 tubs of Lysol wipes and you saved $14,000 on your annual grocery bill. While it's nice to donate to food banks and give away to friends, it's not really your food bill, is it? Sure, we should all donate and that's wonderful and everything - but if you didn't donate, theoretically, you wouldn't be spending all that money in the first place. (No, I didn't study economics, but this is just how it makes sense to me in my mind. My husband does teach economics, though, so maybe I'll ask him.) Chances are, unless she gives half of her supply of wipes to a friend, they'll dry out or expire before she even gets around to using them.

Sixty boxes of cereal later, she realizes she has to give some away because ... duh, they will expire long before she can begin to consume that much. There you go. I hope you like Frosted Flakes, honey, 'cause I got a really good deal on them at the store...

I remember seeing the inside of my grandparents' bathroom closet once and spied like 50 rolls of toilet paper and probably just as many cans of shaving cream. Sure, when you're 80 you don't want to make all those trips to the store for more TP. That's one thing I can stockpile - actually, in a fog of tiredness or whatever it was I made two trips to Target in about a weeks' time and ended up with two big honkin' things of toilet paper. I think I need to pay more attention or stop shopping when I feel like crap.

So I agree, some things are worth stockpiling and toilet paper is probably one of them. But then comes the next problem. Where are you going to put it all?

I seem to have a premium on space in my house, at least space that isn't currently being used as a habitat for mice. I know they can often chew their way through a bar of Irish Spring in a matter of days, so there goes your supply of bar soap. What about flooding? Fire? Yes, I know those things are rare; but it is just stuff. Stuff you will eventually use (in about a year or three) but really don't need. 

I have a friend who is a bargain shopper much like this woman. Her daughter wears fancy, frilly dresses to church all the time - dresses that her mother buys out of season for next to nothing - and it seems like it's almost never the same dress twice. (Although I'm sure it is, she doesn't wear the same one as often as, say, my daughter - who has a fight with me if she can't wear her favorite skirt every day of the week.) Her husband told me he used to work in retail and as an employee, would get a substantial discount. Combine that with a clearance sale they had one time, and he was buying ties at 50 cents apiece. So he bought 50. I'm like, What do you need with that many ties?! Just because you got a good deal doesn't mean you have to buy a million of them.

Getting a great deal on name-brand kids' clothes is one thing, but I've found there's a nasty side effect to that, too: too many choices means my kids, at least, will latch on to one particular item and not want to wear anything else. It doesn't matter how many nice dresses or shirts they have if they don't want to wear them. Sometimes I force the issue because, hey, I did spend money on that stuff. But sometimes it's just not worth it.

I am reminded of the story of a friend who has spent close to 20 years living off and on in the Congo. He has reported how scarce certain supplies and items were - like spoons. When a group donated supplies, clothing and things like sporting goods to a particular church over there, they remembered to include a shipment of teaspoons, because the people there had few eating utensils to choose from. Apparently the idea of having one solitary teaspoon in your possession is a big deal to some people, and extreme couponing sort of pales in comparison.

I suppose the exact opposite of the hoarding extreme couponing mentality is the way my mother-in-law shops. Born in Europe during World War II, her tri-weekly trips to the store reflect her steadfast ways - and sometimes sparse upbringing - in a community that did not buy things in bulk but rather only bought what they could take home in a bicycle basket. I once asked my husband, "Why doesn't your mom just buy a gallon of milk instead of making two trips to the store in one week?" Because she was raised to often do without out of necessity (my husband often tells the kids that grandma first tried an orange when she was 12 years old), it became a force of habit for her.

Not having an endless supply of certain luxury items like cereal bars, goldfish crackers and even orange juice, I've found, sometimes does us some good in our household, too. I hate forgetting key items at the store when I've just been there, and don't feel like running back into town the next day for something that we can live without. Running low on your favorite cereal? Eat oatmeal instead - it's probably healthier for you, anyway.

While this woman makes it a point not to buy out the entire supply of an item to save some for someone else, not all extreme couponers feel this way, apparently. This kind of buying screams greed to me, with all your attention focused on what you need (or rather, want) instead of someone else. We like Roman Meal 12 Grain bread, and it's usually cheaper than other kinds of bread. Does that mean I need to take all seven loaves off the shelf? I feel extremely guilty unless I leave two or three behind for someone else.

Having a mouse infestation has taught me one thing: use it or lose it. You never know what could happen to your stuff, and after all, it is just stuff. 

More reading:
The Dirty Secret Behind Coupons! Psychology Today
The Problems with Extreme Couponing -

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to raise a brat

Boy, I have been thinking on this one for awhile. All the noise about the Pearls and the Ezzos has really got me thinking, and I wanted to read Gary Ezzo's book for myself before making any comments on it. Unfortunately my library card is pretty much maxed out on fines, so that will have to wait for another post.

A few months ago, some old guy evangelist came to our church to speak. Among the many tangents he got off on were child-rearing, and I watched with raised eyebrows. My husband wasn't there that day, otherwise I would have been clenching his hand to the point of drawing blood, I bet.

Mr. Evangelist proclaimed, almost proudly, how when his son was 11 months old or so, he got dad's attention by throwing his bottle out of the crib. Dad picked it up, and Baby Evangelist promptly threw it back. Dad handed it to him again, and he again threw it. So Mr. Evangelist responded by giving his son a swat because of his behavior.

I need to remember that sometimes my facial expressions give my true thoughts and feelings away, and I tried to remain deadpan. I'm not sure how successful I was, because inside, I was pretty irate. My first thought was, "Well, ding dong, there's a simple solution to that - don't hand him the bottle." Children - even babies - like to play games, and what parent hasn't been the unwitting victim of the ol' "I'm going to throw my bottle/toy/spoon on the floor 500 times to watch you pick it up 500 times!" game? Come on already.

I wondered about a person who would almost take what I felt was pride over a subject such as this. Surely those of us who do spank as a method of discipline don't consider it one of our finer moments when it has to happen. We don't relish it, or look forward to it. I also wonder about Mr. Evangelist types who go on tirades about child-raising today: no one is arguing with the fact that some parents are truly lax, but some of these old dudes are so far removed from the parenting scene that you have to wonder. How much were they really around to do the majority, or even a portion, of the parenting? No doubt mom was the one deep in the trenches every day, and she might have a very different perspective on what went down.

As he went on, and even though some of what he said (on unrelated topics to the baby spanking) was okay, I couldn't help wonder what was going through the heads of our congregation. (It's important to realize that even among the most conservative Christians, not everyone agrees, and not everyone should. More on that later, though.)

Not long after our pastor did a sermon on "how to raise a brat." For the most part, I agreed with him: in some kids, it's obvious that there is no discipline going on, and they are pretty much allowed to rule the roost. We see this in mothers who say, "I have no idea how to control him!" and yet take a totally hands-off approach to parenting. Or, conversely, spank all the time with little room for any other form of correction. While we do spank from time to time, it has to be in the right context and for the right reasons, not just as a matter of course.

Later I realized he was using a pamphlet for the major points of his sermon, and I also noticed he had left some key things out. Namely the part about infants, where you're supposedly in danger of raising a brat if you 'pick him up every time he cries.' Interesting that my pastor would leave that part out - because I don't think he agrees with it. The pamphlet's author said (and I paraphrase), "Run to his aid every time he cries, and he'll expect to be pampered all his life" or some such crapola. Seriously?!

I asked a fellow church member and father of three about this and wanted he and his wife's opinion. They both agreed that you can't spoil a baby. Whew, I thought. This must mean there are sane people among the Christian community and not everyone believes this wacko.

I don't know what the author of this pamphlet specifically meant by "infant." Are we talking six months old? Six weeks? I thought back to my own parenting experiences and how each of my children was different: crying it out for ten minutes worked for my oldest, but I made sure to pay attention to the pattern and intensity of his cries. If he wouldn't stop after several minutes (which was very rare), or started up again after a brief period of quiet, I would go back in to check on him. Sure enough, he needed a diaper change. Once we took care of that, he'd cry for like two minutes and be asleep before his head hit the mattress.

Children two and three were much, much different. Crying it out worked in no way, shape or form, and the only time I've ever used it with Child 3 was when I was at my wit's end, ready to drop from exhaustion. On that occasion, I'll admit I had to just turn up the fan and close the door, or else I was going to do worse damage if I tried to soothe him back to sleep. At some point, if you are reaching your breaking point, crying it out is better than doing physical harm to a child, and you should just put the baby down and walk away until you can get it together.

With Child number three, I've discovered what he usually wants when he's tired: more mommy time! Tater Tot just turned two, and has been nursed the longest of all three kids. Sometimes all he wants is five more minutes on the boob or to sit with me and rock. Putting it into perspective helps, for me: I'm tired, yes, but I can't get this time back once it's over. And some day when they're packing for college, I'm going to miss it.

I look at some of these hyper-evangelical Christians who think up their own parenting "techniques" and wonder about them. Some of them might be speaking from experience - I like psychologist James Dobson, for instance, who does have a degree and medical training to give him some credibility in the field. Does that mean I've followed everything he's ever done to the letter? Nope. Not even close. But he sounds like a reasonable guy, and he does not advocate spanking as the be-all-end-all solution to every discipline problem. Another Christian psychologist I like is father-of-five Dr. Kevin Lehman, who is equally level-headed and yet humorous at the same time. I get the feeling he ran his house with equal parts love and discipline (which does not automatically translate into spanking), not the heavy-handed "iron fist" that it seems Ezzo and his counterparts did.

I also raise eyebrows at people who don't have a family big enough to draw much experience from, or at least have one boy in the mix. Until you've had boys, you often (although not always) have not "lived" in terms of parenting and its tempests. I say this mostly tongue-in-cheek, of course, but most of us can agree that girls and boys are VERY different, and each bring their own sets of triumphs and challenges to the table.

Just this weekend I was chatting with a mom of six (five hers, one a stepchild) about discipline and how the stepdaughter is getting in "trouble" a lot at school. Stepmom is worried that something isn't right with her, and questions whether it could be dietary, vaccinations (she's the only one of the kids who is) or something else.

While all of Stepmom's concerns are probably legitimate, I made a mental list of what could be going on in this girl's life.

• her mother died when she was a preschooler, and no doubt she is still processing grief - or will, at some point - in her own way.
• Dad recently re-married, uprooting the family, giving her an automatic four siblings
• Dad rules the house with the typical "Ezzo-style iron fist" and uses a plastic spoon, on the kids, in the middle of church (which, I might add, many - MANY - of our congregation find deplorable)
• Stepmom just had a new baby, which not only adds another sibling, but a cute baby one who demands - and gets - a lot of individual attention
• And the biggest one of all: she's her own person, an individual who is not like the others because she isn't them. 

I asked Stepmom, "How much of this is just who she is? What part of this is just personality traits?" In other words, a nice way of saying, "Have you seen her dad lately? Because he's the same.freakin'. way." So much so, to the point where there are congregation members who are glad this family has moved away and no longer regularly attend our church.

She gets "demerits" in school for things like talking out of turn, running in the halls, etc. etc. Of course, she goes to a "strict" Christian school, and I sort of cringed inside. I picture overzealous discipline to the point of doing it just because it's the thing to do, not because there's any individual attention paid to her or her problem, whatever it might be. I am also curious how this child, probably the most structured of the lot, could suddenly be called out when it's clear that the other children, who were all homeschooled prior to this, have their own set of troubling issues. (Let's just say not everyone is entirely capable of home schooling their kids.)

Stepmom, and other Christians, often use the phrase "breaking the child's will," which is a phrase I have grown to hate. I usually retort, "I know a lot of adults who need to have their will broken, too." I told Stepmom as much, how I thought that could easily segue into heavy-handed disciplinarian measures that produced little more than a robot - or worse, a kid who rebelled and didn't want anything to do with God. (Hello, can anyone say "Baby Boomer generation?")

I remember when Dad got out the plastic spoon to swat his stepson for whatever inane reason, like he couldn't sit through the sermon without squirming. Kid would cry, and somehow manage to keep a stiff upper lip that prevented him from bursting into all-out sobs in the middle of service. I felt so sorry for those kids, and wanted to individually lead them out of church somewhere else, all by myself. Ironically, I think back to what Stepmom told me yesterday - that at some point, she was so overwhelmed with other duties, other children and an impending divorce from her first husband - that her discipline with her not-even four-year-old son was lax. And now, guess who gets the brunt of it - all because mom dropped her end of the ball. The spatula (or whatever particular utensil is on hand that Sunday) is the instrument of choice in taking out on the child what is essentially the parent's fault.

At one point, I swore if I saw him use that spoon again, I'd rip it out of his hands and smack him on the back of the head with it. My husband practically had to hold me back from doing something rash, right there in the middle of church.

I nearly choked when at one point Stepmom told me, "Look at the Pearls' children. They're all successful, they've never rebelled." "Yeah," I said, "and they're all Type A personalities." Measures of success and rebellion are subjective - the outside appearance of success and good behavior are one thing, but what's going on inside a person - or behind closed doors - is another matter entirely.

Sure, Gary Ezzo's daughters (all two of them) claim they were well-adjusted people who never had any problems with their dad's methods of discipline. While I haven't been following the cases of abuse coming out of the Pearls' discipline methods, I'm sure the children who died as a result of their parents' philosophy would disagree.

But this is where I have another problem: the people who follow this advice, to the letter, are just as bad. Anyone that would advocate you hurt your own child, even if it goes against your innermost feelings, is putting all their faith and trust in one person - a man. I don't know if non-Christians follow this stuff, but for those who are Christians that do, they are essentially worshipping the man, Gary Ezzo or whoever, instead of putting that trust and faith in God himself. Who has more power? God or Gary Ezzo? In that case, I'd have to question their faith in the first place.

When a nurse blatantly tells you you must stop the strict feeding schedule that these people suggest, or else your baby could suffer malnutrition and become very sick or even die, and you refuse, "because that's not what the book says!" you, as Christian, are putting all your faith and trust in the wrong book. Pick up your Bible, because the second half of "Children, obey your parents" and "Honor thy father and mother" is "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The infertility answer: would you forgo IVF?

I have been blessed to have three children of my own, but as I've mentioned before, know quite a few people in my area who have adopted. Their stories are nothing short of miraculous and heartbreaking.

My neighbor MJ has had several miscarriages, and her adoption story began one day at the office, where someone knew a poor family who was pregnant with their seventh child. Drug and alcohol problems riddled them, and the parents knew they could not keep this new baby. Word got out that perhaps they would consider giving the child up for adoption, and that MJ and her then-husband were interested.

They set up a meeting with the mother, and followed her pregnancy throughout and were there at the delivery to take their new daughter home. It was nothing short of a miracle how they came together in the first place, just on a chance conversation about the friend of a friend.

Melissa, another woman in the neighborhood, has a biological son who was born nearly three months early. While he survived and is doing well, she and her husband decided adoption was the best answer for their second child, a biracial girl with the most beautiful crazy hair and eyes I've ever seen. Melissa has MS, and felt that another pregnancy might exacerbate her symptoms.

Acquaintances Barb and Pete also adopted three children. Their story began with the oldest, whose mother was a substance abuser. She lost custody of her son and then became pregnant again, and Barb and Pete attempted to adopt her daughter as well, in an effort to keep the two children together. The biological mother ignored a court order and took the child back, housing her at a rehab facility with her, and eventually the couple had to give up their painful fight to adopt the sister. Unfortunately, the journey took its toll on them emotionally and financially, and they ended up embroiled in a messy divorce.

Another couple we know, Gwen and John, are currently in the process of adopting twin boys, to join a 5-year-old son they adopted as a newborn. The process has been nothing short of exhausting and frustrating. When I first knew them, we talked a little about their struggles, and they revealed that they had decided to forgo IVF and adopt instead, because of Gwen's previous gynecological health concerns and what the emotional stress might do to her. In the process to adopt the twins, they waited patiently for months, only to find out the paperwork had been sitting on the case worker's desk the entire time. As the court date finally loomed to determine full custody, John was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening cancerous tumor, and who knows if that will jeopardize their chances once and for all.

I couldn't help but wonder, why not choose IVF? Most people who need help do go through with it, and often are successful. Although surely none of us is Celine Dion, who could afford numerous treatments until they produced not one, but two babies, it is natural to want your own offspring - who look like you and share your traits - that is just human nature. But I found it curious that this couple would not want to even try, considering the technology that is available to them.

Just the other day I heard from an old friend who said the same thing. Samantha and her husband have been trying to conceive for years, and finally decided to start the adoption process. They are attempting to set up an adoption with a teenager, something I find incredibly admirable. Most people want the baby instead - to love, cuddle, feed, all that stuff. Few people, it seems, want to start with someone who is already shaped and molded as a teenaged kid. They too, interestingly, decided not to go the route of IVF.

While admittedly I don't know all the ins and outs of either process, I know they are not easy. They are extremely expensive, and the stress of infertility, repeated IVF attempts and the adoption process can all take their toll on marriages and relationships with others. Knowing so many couples that have struggled through these trials, it drives me absolutely insane to hear people casually say, "Just adopt," as if it happens because you merely snap your fingers and declare it so.

I'm also curious if people like Samantha and Gwen ever regret their decision to not try IVF. Perhaps Gwen, who already has adopted children, is scared how a biological child would change the dynamics in the family - I know I would be. Yet, if it were me, part of me would always wonder - could I have my own child, with a little help? Would I easily get pregnant or would it take forever? I don't know if I could deal with not knowing.

What would you do? Jump at the chance for IVF, pouring your heart and soul (and money) into it, or bravely enter the adoption process?

More reading:
PETA tells people to "curb their reproductive habits" and consider adoption instead

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Death of a Disco Kitchen, Part 2

The Disco Kitchen is dead and buried. I told the maintenance guy, hands raised in triumphant glee, "We're in the 2000's now! Yee haw!"

The kitchen floor looks great (despite my husband standing in the threshold to the hallway, telling me, "This is a different color than the other stuff," to freak me out). My daughter has already determined that "now my heel shoes will sound even louder!" and now all we need are new countertops, new cupboards, a real back door...wishful thinking.

Somewhere underneath that
beautiful exterior lies the lingering
memory of the Disco Kitchen. 
I am trying to be very appreciative of what I've received, despite being a little jealous: within eye shot of my kitchen window is my husband's boss' house, complete with their new, fully upgraded $60,000 kitchen (paid for out of the company's budget. "No bonuses this year, sorry! We don't have enough money!") When I heard that news, I wanted to choke. "Are you serious?" I asked incredulously. Apparently Mrs. HGTV Kitchen couldn't "cook in there for a family of six." I immediately pictured some of the kitchens in apartments on campus that are no bigger than a nice-sized closet, and the families of four (and soon to be five) cooking out of that, that hasn't seen an upgrade since it was built probably 25 years ago. I also immediately thought back to how, in the late 1980s, our entire house was purchased by my husband's employer for not much more than that. I saw red! I've watched enough home improvement shows to know that that's a lot of upgrade for the money - what'd they do, knock out a wall?! (Never mind, I thought, you don't want to know.)

Quickly evil thoughts of Mrs. HGTV Kitchen were replaced by thoughts of a new problem: a recent infestation of mice. We first noticed it a couple weeks ago, when a strawberry cereal bar had mistakenly been left out overnight. In the morning, some nibbles were missing and it had been moved, but wasn't totally eaten. (Is that a sign they're not as nutritious as I thought?, if even the mice won't eat them.) I sat on the computer one night to hear very loud nibbling coming somewhere from the "Chinese cabinet," as my kids call it. I knew Tater Tot's high chair probably yielded a virtual feast for any rodent who chooses, and I also know that our dear old 100+ year old house was as full of holes as a slice of swiss cheese. The beauty of an old house is coupled with the horrors of all manner of rodents: carpenter bees in the summer, bats in the spring (shudder) and now this. We might as well hang up a welcome sign and pass out engraved invitations!

I reasoned that my house is really no dirtier than it's ever been, and thanks to my neurotic behavior when it comes to vacuuming, I go on regular Crumb Control missions probably twice a day. I figured all those rogue neighborhood cats I used to complain about but strangely no longer see prowling around must be the reason we are experiencing Rodent Heaven at our humble abode. I try to picture Ralph S. Mouse, with a sports car and golf ball for a helmet, but unfortunately only see hanta virus.

I saw this on the stairs the other
day and nearly crapped my pants.
Oh, it's just a plastic triceratops. 
After hearing the suspicious gnawing, I reluctantly emptied out the entire contents of the Chinese cupboard and we moved the whole thing, only to reveal there was a virtual party going on underneath. Someone had found a tasty treat in the form of a couple pieces of old Kix cereal, which accounted for the decibel-level chewing I was hearing: those things must be hard as rocks when they've gone stale. We cleaned everything up and I promptly swooped into action mode, vacuuming like a freak and moving furniture around. I even went upstairs and moved heavy pieces of furniture, sweeping underneath and going nuts. I haven't gotten that much done in months.

My husband had heard them in the false wall behind the bathtub, for which their is a convenient, nasty little crawl space opening into our bedroom closet. I braved it and lifted the door off, flashlight in hand, to reveal something out of Tales from the Crypt: ancient, half-eaten pine cones, large pieces of newspaper from 1976, and a bunch of disturbed insulation. He recently said he heard, from the kitchen, what sounded like me dragging a string of beads across the bathroom floor, so he set out a trap that night, and heard a lot of "activity" (read: something trying desperately to get out or away from the trap, causing a ruckus loud enough for us to hear). He checked it the next day, but the trap was still there - yet the crypt had been visibly disturbed. So we knew something was definitely up. They were getting pissed, no doubt!

Unfortunately since the Disco Kitchen had been uprooted, it meant the workers still had to come back and finish the trim. I mistakenly thought my husband had said he would paint around the removed baseboards first and then they would attach the trim, when really he wanted them to do the trim first. The lightbulb went off in my head as I realized that meant the house was full of even more holes, and I cringed as I went along the baseboards with a flashlight and saw all kinds funky stuff under the cupboards, including what I hope is a big ball of fuzz that only looks like a petrified pile of mouse remains. That is not a skull, that is not a skull, I kept repeating to myself. I spied something that looked like a giant earthworm but I'm hoping was only a long-desiccated noodle from the previous tenant, whom I knew had a problem with ants. (After seeing their cleaning skills, I'm wondering if these aren't just 100th-generation mice who set up camp years ago. Let's not even go there...)

Now on to the basement. My biggest fear is that they will zip their way through my entire stash of fabric, perhaps taking a chunk of my scrapbooking collection with them, making nests out of my prized memories. I know they like to make nests out of piles of messy clothes and other crap lying around, and since I haven't felt like doing much down there in months, the place is probably perfect for their rodent escapades. That's a sign that I must (first wash everything) and get busy on my crafting stuff that I have neglected for too long. Since we have a stone wall foundation in the basement, my husband just this morning reasoned that all the debris and dust we've found all over the perimeter every so often is probably from mouse activity. No, that can't be, I say, in complete denial. Gag. Every time I open a cupboard, I half expect to have one come flying out at me. I look up at some of the open cupboards - you know, the ones the old tenant took the doors off of, for some reason - and wonder, have they been climbing all over my dishes? What about my computer keyboard? Gulp. Just because they don't poop all over everything, doesn't mean they weren't there. I think I just died a little inside.

I've done some research on mouse activity (and thanks to a few FaceBook fans and officially puking at all their horror stories of mice eating each other to get out of the trap and doing all kinds of whacky, carnivorous stuff). They're smart little boogers, and we humans are apparently the dumb ones. Needless to say, the idea of sharing our home with them has made me more than a little paranoid. The other day I went to make tea, and as the kettle heated up, it made a persistent squeaking sound. I cocked my head like an obedient beagle and went in to investigate. Since the spout is just about the right size, I turned the heat off and sloshed the kettle around a little, turning my head in agony as I poured the water out, praying that nothing else came out with it.

Every speck of dirt and piece of sock fuzz looks like mouse poop, and I find myself stalking around the house, plotting my revenge with Chuck Norris-style ideas to get rid of them, most of which involve completely inhumane methods. Okay, you little !@(%^&@s, since you like my oven so much, how about I turn on the timer so it comes on at 2 a.m.?! In my research, I found, among the "unconventional methods," setting bait made of chocolate and plaster of Paris, so they get a nice belly full of hard gypsum. That's even a little too bizarre for me. Besides, I don't want them to die inside my walls and stink up the house.

To prove just how smart they are (and how dumb we must be), my husband pre-baited the trap last night, and was officially freaked out to see that they of course took the peanut butter and cookie bait, as well as the glue trap. "It's missing," he gasped, panic in his voice. "They took the glue trap!" I thought he was going to scream like a girl.

"They might have gotten half stuck in it and taken it with them," I bravely offered, since now I officially know that sometimes they will chew off their own feet in an effort to get away. *shivers* Trying not to picture that, I offer him the following advice: "Move the trap, and pre-bait it again for a couple of days. Then set it." Yeah, me, the expert. "And if you see so and so this morning, ask him if he still has cats. And if we can borrow one of them."

Our next job is to plug up the holes, of which there are many. An old remodeling job in the bathroom (which used to be a tiny bedroom) reveals that some smart guy decided that leaving all the plaster and lathe exposed behind the bathroom sink was a suitable way to leave things, rather than plaster up his work. And under the kitchen sink, where most of them apparently take up residence, there is easy access to pipes, the basement and all kinds of other stuff, leaving them free to roam as they please. From there they undoubtedly make their way to the back porch, where another gaping access hole is, directly through yet another hole in the porch floorboards and out into the free world. (If I over-think this too much, I will die.) I am presently dispatching more maintenance people to fill them all, armed with dozens of cans of spray foam and caulking.

In the meantime, I look out the window towards Mrs. HGTV's house. I silently hope they all come to her kitchen. I know, I think evilly, we'll use those Hav-A-Hart traps and just turn them loose over there. I am evil. I know.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another cesarean? This time, I'm doing it my way

It's been almost ten days since my youngest turned two. On his birthday, I thought back to where I was - and how much of my birth story I still find triumphant, some parts completely dissatisfying and frustrating. From the time he was probably less than twelve hours old, the seed was already planted in my mind: I wanted another baby.

But was it for a do-over? Was it for the right reasons?

I still think what I thunk before: I want another baby. And I must resign myself, if I ever get to that point, that I might have to have another cesarean.

The moments leading up to and following my son's birth still leave me frustrated with myself and completely hollow inside: I felt no joy when I first saw him. I only realized later that an adverse reaction to the anti-nausea meds they had given me prior were what made me feel like I was having a panic attack, a feeling of intense anxiety and a weight pushing down on my chest. The only thing I could do was thrash my head back and forth, since I was numb from the chest down. No one noticed; I asked my husband later if he remembers me doing that, and he said no.

I resigned myself to the idea that if I had another cesarean, I would want it done my way. More attention paid to me as the mother, rather than standing over me having a conversation that didn't even pertain to me. Somehow making me feel like more of a participant, instead of just lying there like a dead fish. Perhaps asking me if I wanted to see my baby being born, or at least be able to hold him immediately following the surgery. Keep him in the room with me as they're cleaning him up, where I can see him, instead of in another room where I can only hear and just imagine what is going on. And the ability to hold him skin-to-skin, and nurse as soon as possible, with no immediate separation for newborn testing.

It's sad that you even have to ask for such things to happen, rather instead putting up with things like having your baby immediately whisked away because it's a matter of course, rather than something really being wrong. I've heard many expressions of "You've waited this long to see your baby, you can wait another couple of hours." The immediate hours after my first cesarean were such a blur that I don't even remember where my son was most of the time, and their idea of separating us so "I could rest" is the biggest bunch of bullshit I've ever heard. A half-attentive nurse was popping in and out over the course of several hours to check my beeping IV, which she had inserted improperly, causing that very important post-surgery pain medication to actually leach into my tissues, instead of into my veins. Nurses didn't believe me or even take notice when I said it hurt just as badly to inject myself with pain meds, and actually told me I couldn't have any more because I'd already gone past my ten-dose-per-hour limit. Not, "Are you still in that much pain?" or "Let's see if there's something wrong."

Ironically my VBAC in the same hospital three years later was a totally different experience. I had no epidural, so was able to walk around and move freely, and felt great. My labor was pretty short upon arriving at the hospital, and I was in a post-partum room with a matter of hours. The nurse brought me my food (they told me after the first baby that I was responsible for getting my own, after just having had major abdominal surgery). I was puzzled, but am still curious why I got better treatment after a vaginal birth than I did a cesarean. I decided before my third was born that I would never give birth in that hospital again.

Not that long ago, a friend shared her link with me on "Gentle Cesareans." Curious, I realized it was basically a "Cesarean, My Way" plan, that involves the mother more in the birth process and makes it feel more like a normal birth. (I hesitate to call this "natural," because, after all, if surgical birth were truly natural we'd all be born with zippers on our abdomens in addition to a perfectly working vagina, in my opinion.)

Like this article, I ask many of the same questions: Why do our arms need to be strapped down? Why are we so shielded from ourselves, and why aren't we asked - which I never was - whether we wanted to watch our baby being born?

Taking my history into account, if I should become pregnant again I'll have to consider my options carefully: I've had two cesareans, a history of late-onset PIH, and two prior breech presentations. I know that decision might come sooner rather than later, if the baby is breech - either I find a care provider who will deliver me anyway, or I consent to another cesarean, this time on my own terms:

I want to see my child being born.

I want my child to be cleaned, weighed and measured where I can see. (My first wasn't even in the room with me while this was happening.)

I want the baby to be handed to me immediately, and as much skin-to-contact as soon as possible.

I want the baby to be with me, or nearby, if I can't hold him, at all times.

British obstetrician Nick Fisk "pioneered" this "groundbreaking approach to surgical delivery," in an age where many doctors are clinically-minded and all about speedy deliveries. In a case of distress, that is obviously of the utmost importance - but in a scheduled delivery? And why do you have to ask specifically for this type of delivery - why isn't it done, whenever possible, to give the mom the very best birth experience possible? (And perhaps by acknowledging the "gentle cesarean" are they essentially saying that there is more to the birth experience than just a healthy baby?)

As Fisk started to examine the conventions of surgical delivery, he was struck by how easily they could be challenged. Why, for example, did they need to be done so quickly, when slowing them down would give the parents more chance to participate in their child's delivery and might give the baby a gentler experience of coming into the world? Why, too, was it so important for the parents to be screened off from the mother's abdomen? And was it really essential for the baby to be whisked off for an immediate medical examination, rather than delivered into the arms of his mother?
What I want to know is, what took them so long?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Some upset over ACOG's "April Fool's" Press Release on Elective Cesarean

In a recent April Fool's prank, someone, somewhere, issued a fake press release supposedly from ACOG that touted the headline, "ACOG announces plan to stop elective c-sections." Collective eyebrows, including mine, raised in a "What the (!&%(?" moment, before realizing the truth. (The smiley face in the ACOG logo was a dead giveaway.)

Some, including this blogger, thought it was in very poor taste. Perhaps, if it had really come from ACOG. Otherwise, I don't see a whole lot wrong with it.

(This author also said she tried looking for it, but couldn't find it on line and figured ACOG was taking measures to "remove" the falsified document from web pages everywhere. If you do a Google search, you'll still find a lot of hits - and ACOG would essentially have to ask web masters - including those from natural-birth supporting sites like, to remove the offending link. Which I seriously doubt they would agree to do.)

At any rate, I agree with the author, who sums the elective cesarean debate up nicely: if you want to have one, and are truly informed of the risks and possible benefits of doing so, you should be supported in your decision. However, the same is not true, sadly, for those women do no not want a cesarean, or who decide to have a natural or normal birth.

In the comments section, it didn't take long before women were quick to be offended: "I had two cesareans and loved them! They were wonderful!" Thankfully, someone further down told this mom, "You are missing the point."

We can argue that these women need to be totally informed of their decision - but I grow suspect when I wonder where, exactly, they are getting their information from. The same OB who, in my last post, told his patient a cesarean was "100 percent safe?" To some, that's their idea of informed consent. To the rest of us, it's a complete joke, and a very misleading, potentially dangerous one at that.

I'd like to see this right to choose extended more to women who seek a VBAC, or perhaps those who refuse a cesarean and end up having an extremely healthy, normal birth and baby - yet some entity in the hospital decides to have children's services investigate. If you have the right to an abortion, as one doctor suggests, you should have the right to choose a cesarean - but what about the right to not choose one?

It's clear to me that when it comes to the birthing choices of women, ACOG doesn't really give a crap. Because they aren't willing to actually make sure that physicians are adhering to their guidelines, it tells me they are all about the doctors, instead of what's best for the patient. Sure, they want to extend even women who have had two prior cesareans the "right" to have a VBAC, but what physician is going to back them up on that? I find many physicians like to get all preachy about what ACOG suggests and doesn't suggest - when it comes to something they mutually agree on, like the safety of home births. ACOG has definitely spoken up about that, and many doctors are in agreement. But what about the stuff they don't agree on? Is ACOG going to investigate a doctor who is unaffectionately known as "Dr. Cut and Slice" by many of his staff? When a moniker like that is given to a doctor, I feel so sorry for the patient, who is usually the last to know.

More reading:
Is ACOG pulling an April Fool's Day prank?
ACOG Announces Plan to Stop Elective C-Sections
The "C" in ACOG stands for "Castrated" 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The "100 percent safe" cesarean

Yesterday this lovely little gem came across my FaceBook news feed:
“Really, I don’t like any risk at all. If it were up to me, we’d just go with the 100% safe cesarean section.” – OB to parents during a VBAC discussion.
Really... I bet!

And unfortunately, sometimes this is the closest women get to being "informed" about their options when it comes to childbirth.

I've been lambasted on at least one blog (not even gonna go there) for questioning what OB's say and suggesting that their white coats and medical degree make them sound more "right" and authoritative. I don't believe I've ever intentionally painted all doctors as bad, because I know they aren't. But I think there are a lot of people out there who think like this guy (woman?) - and simply don't want to deal with you because to them, you wear the words "potential lawsuit" on your sleeve. You are essentially perceived as a more difficult patient to deal with since you have a scarred uterus.

No cesarean is "100 percent safe." I'm not sure that anything in this entire world even is, honestly. There are clear risks to surgery - both short- and long-term - that it seems few physicians are open and honest about. If you plan on having more children, multiple cesareans can pose complications in future pregnancies and make it even harder for you to have a vaginal birth.

It seems ridiculous to think of future pregnancies and babies when you haven't even had your first yet, but remember: cesareans are forever.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Medical quackery in "modern" obstetrics

As a jumping off point from my last post (which would have been hideously long had I combined the two), I was left wondering how questionable medical practices and "quackery" could possibly relate to obstetrics. Obviously it wasn't all that hard.

No one's denying that a lot of advancements have been made in modern medicine, including obstetrics - mostly with monitoring devices, like ultrasound, fetal monitoring and the like. Mostly they have likely increased the survival rate of sickly, premature babies and those with major medical conditions that would have claimed their lives even a few decades ago. The surgery they can do before birth for spina bifida, for instance, is nothing short of mind-boggling, and technology that definitely benefits - if you need it.

But consider for a moment that the majority of the pregnant population is not at that great of risk. It often reminds me of the phrase, "Innocent until proven guilty." In the case of modern obstetrics, it's often the way around. As Marsden Wagner has often said, in modern obstetrics physicians often see pregnancy and birth not as a normal process, but as a disaster waiting to happen.

As a result, everyone is treated the same - with more technology and drugs, some of which is either providing dubious efficacy at best, or may create more harm than good. Some questionable obstetrical quackery might include:

• Ultrasounds. Many question their safety, ultimately, and claim they generate excess heat and sound, which is transmitted directly to the unborn child. At any rate, even those who say they are safe agree that using it too much is probably not a good idea. While used diagnostically, like in the case of an unborn baby with spina bifida, they can detect conditions that can now be treated before birth so as to greatly improve outcomes. (For the record, the Spina Bifida Assocation says that it occurs roughly in 7 out of every 10,000 births.)

I often hear about women who get numerous ultrasounds, sometimes almost at every appointment. Some are given transvaginal ultrasounds for dating purposes in early pregnancy, even though they already know their last menstrual period and even their date of conception (which really isn't that hard for some of us, contrary to popular belief). In all of my pregnancies, I probably have had no fewer than three each time, some of which for legitimate reasons (unexplained vaginal bleeding) and to "re-check" for clubfoot (not life-threatening the least).

• Pushing in the lithotomy position, or flat on your back. Really it depends on the situation, as there are very few times when this position is beneficial. For the rest of those times, it makes it harder to birth your baby, and is convenient only for the physician, so he can get a head-on view of the baby crowning.

Somewhere I've read that culturally, women did not give birth flat on their backs until male practitioners took over the in field; before they often gave birth on birthing stools with female midwives. It actually creates a more narrow pelvic opening, which can often translate into a stalled vaginal delivery and a cesarean. For decades, if not centuries, this is the most typical mode of birth, which is likely what has negatively shaped many people's ideas about birth to this day.

• Episiotomies for everyone! Although not quite as popular as they used to be, they are still routinely performed even without much need. Which makes me wonder just how many doctors no longer routinely perform this procedure, if I'm still hearing about women getting them all the time?

It appears that the biggest benefit from them is that it speeds delivery, and God knows that mostly-impatient OB's are all about that. Because an extra half an hour or so to wait for the baby to come down on its own is just too much to ask.

Continuous electronic fetal monitoring. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, fetal monitoring has become the standard of care in hospitals when determining if your baby is in distress or not. Too bad it more often than not falsely identifies babies in distress when they really aren't, which often leads to cesareans for no reason. Conversely, while it was originally invented to detect cases of cerebral palsy, it can't seem to accurately predict that, either. ("The false positive rate of EFM for predicting cerebral palsy is greater than 99 percent.") Yet it's used, continuously, on a majority of laboring women.

Not only does the strip alone falsely predict when a baby is truly in distress, but you are essentially confined to bed because of the monitor, which is another risk factor for cesarean. Interestingly enough, if true distress is suspected, they can break your water and insert a fetal monitor on the baby's head, which can also lead to cesarean (once the water is broken).

• Repeated vaginal exams will tell you something important. I referenced this in another post. If your doctor tells you that he really needs to do one to determine your "progress" or lack thereof, you might want to reconsider. At the very least, ask him or her point blank "What is this exam going to tell me? Why is it needed?" One woman I heard from asked her doctor this and he sheepishly replied that it basically told him "nothing."

• Being deprived of food and fluids in labor. Although some hospitals are doing away with this policy, not all are jumping on the bandwagon. Based on an archaic study done in the 1940s, it was determined that if you ate anything in labor, it could cause you to aspirate the stomach contents should you need general anesthesia. Sadly, as a result, women are also being deprived of much-needed calories and energy that they could use to endure long labors.

• A crazy high induction rate. Compare, if you will, the medically-indicated induction for a high-risk mother to chemo for the cancer patient: yes, the cancer patient would likely benefit from chemo and radiation, and it should be carried out posthaste. Likewise, if you truly need to be induced for a good reason, which does not include "baby too big," "fluid too low," or "I need a vacation and you're sick of being pregnant." In those circumstances, inducing without clear medical need is like using that radioactive toothpaste I mentioned in my last post - it might not sound harmful at first, but could potentially create serious risks and complications down the road (like longer, harder, more difficult labor or a cesarean).

• A crazy high cesarean rate. For pretty much the same reasons above - no one is arguing that sometimes, cesarean really is the best option. However, how many women that make up that 32 percent c-section rate are led to believe there is no other choice? Or that VBAC is too dangerous for them? What percentage truly electively choose cesarean for no reason? When you hear about things like "Patient choice" when it comes to c-sections, you really need to look individually at the women who are "choosing" these procedures and why: "because my doctor said so" (end of story), "Because my doctor told me my uterus could shatter!" and "My baby was getting too big, so we decided to deliver by cesarean," or "I was told it was dangerous to go past 40 weeks, so we decided to induce and it ended in cesarean." Until you ask women themselves what their prenatal care was like leading up to the c-section (like, did they include "My doctor brought up inductions at every office visit from 32 weeks on," words like "patient choice" don't mean very much.

• Discouraging natural, normal birth. Again, many people treat birth like an accident waiting to happen, instead of "normal until proven otherwise." You may find that in spite of all our "risk factors," things can and often do go well, if only allowed to. Boxing women into a category that defines them as "risky" is less like acknowledging that something could happen because of these factors, and more saying, "It will happen." Unless you see a crystal ball on your doctor's desk, (or there is some clearly defined, proven medical condition going on) tread lightly.

Many doctors scoff at natural birth because they either haven't attended one, or think that because 90 percent of all their other laboring patients are medicated to the gills that you should be, too. They also dismiss it because they either don't realize or don't want you to realize that often times, the midwifery model of care can mean less intervention and fewer cesareans.

While technology can be a life-saving thing, it becomes more of a risk when used incorrectly or too often. It's for this reason, that even with all the modern drugs and technology that we have, that the US continues to have an alarmingly high rate of neonatal deaths for an industrialized nation.

More reading:
Obstetrical Myths - Henci Goer